Jay-Z

The Definitive Guide to Jay-Z’s ‘Magna Carta Holy Grail’ Album Credits

Originally Published on MySpace • July 08, 2013

“Industry is shady, needs to be taken over,” Jay-Z rapped back on “Izzo (H.O.V.A.).” And over a decade later, he’s hardly satisfied with record business’ current state of affairs. That probably includes some of the changes he’s helped enact over the course of his storied career, during which he’s created a catalog of music that will go down as some of the most important songs and albums in hip-hop history. His accomplishments run long: he built an empire under the Roc-A-Fella name, opened a chain of 40/40 nightclubs, written a book (Decoded), bought a stake in the New Jersey Nets and helped bring them to Brooklyn (then sold said shares so Roc Nation Sports could rep NBA, scoring god Kevin Durant). And there’s so much more.

We ain’t gotta tell you: he’s a business, man. Just take a look at his latest venture. To release his 12th album Magna Carta Holy Grail, Jay partnered with Samsung to deliver an album for free via an app designed for the company’s mobile phones, forcing the RIAA’s hand to change the rules about going platinum before an LP even hits stores. Hov wanted to write the new rules. All it took was a will, and the way quickly materialized.

Magna Carta Holy Grail is, by all intents and purposes, more of a new Jay-Z business venture than it is a new Jay-Z album. No one knew it was coming and, once we did, all the chatter—whether from Jigga, his camp or the blogosphere—surrounding the rollout focused almost entirely on this nebulous idea of #newrules. Partially redacted lyric sheets, big name collaborators and approved samples of alterna-rock anthems were revealed, but nary a note was heard, save for the tunes we watched on a Yeezus’d out Rick Rubin nod (off) through a singular promo video.

But multi-bazillion dollar priorities aside, it’s not as if Sean Carter was going to totally half-ass the music side of things. For #MCHG, as it’s known in the tweets, Jay did what Jay’s always been wont to do, rounding up a cavalcade of close associates, some of the biggest names in music and a few hotshot up-and-comers (including one 16-year-old producer who’s still in high school) to help him create something that sounds worthy of a couple bazillions. To properly honor MCHG, we compiled an exhaustive rundown of the brands— we mean, people—who helped Jay-Z make his latest work of art.

THE STAR

Jay-Z

Allow us to re-introduce… OK, who are we kidding. Such formalities are hardly necessary at this point in Jay-Z’s career. Brooklyn kid from the Marcy Projects becomes arguably the biggest rapper to walk the face of the Earth, amassing a mountain of paradigm-shifting records, monster hits and all-time classics that he continues to build on 17 years into his career. Like seriously, what’s there to say when we could just point you back to “Big Pimpin” or “Hard Knock Life” or “Empire State of Mind” or “Encore” or “99 Problems” or “Can I Get A…” or etc., etc., etc. Kanye may be Yeezus now, but we’ve been bowing down to Jay Hova for years.

Jay-Z, Credit: Official

THE PERSONNEL

Todd Pendelton, Samsung Chief Marketing Officer

A Northeastern University grad and marketing whiz, Todd Pendleton spent about 15 years working for Nike, earning the position of Global Brand Communications Director before jumping to Samsung in 2011 to take on the position of Chief Marketing Officer.

Jay Brown, Roc Nation Co-Founder/President

Current president of Roc Nation, which he helped Jay-Z launch back in 2008 after inking a massive deal with parent company Live Nation. Brown has helped build the imprint into a certified empire with branches in management, touring, publishing and, most recently, a sports agency. Brown’s career kicked off as a publisher at Quincy Jones Music Publishing/Qwest Records and he’s also the former SVP of A&R at Def Jam.

John Meneilly, Manager

Not much is known about John Meneilly, though he’s been one of Jay-Z’s most trusted managers and business advisors for years now, brokering all kinds of power moves in the upper echelon of the Roc Nation world. What we do know: Jay shouted him out in his “A Milli” remix (“And John Meneilly-onaire is my consigliore”) and that he’s tweeted just three times, twice to boast that neither Watch the Throne nor MCHG would leak. Good track record so far.

THE FEATURES

Justin Timberlake

Myspace // Official // Twitter

Contribution: Vocals, “Holy Grail,” “BBC”; Writing, “Holy Grail,” “Heaven,” “BBC,” “Jay-Z Blue”; Additional Production, “Jay-Z Blue”

After his stint as a member of the little-known boy band N Sync, Justin Timberlake (the curly-haired one) mysteriously disappeared from the face of the Earth. No one has heard from him since.

Frank Ocean
Myspace // Official

Contribution: Vocals and Writing, “Oceans”

The Grammy-winning Ocean connected with Hov and Kanye for Watch the Throne, with the R&B crooner and songwriter featured on “No Church in the Wild” and “Made in America” as both an artist and composer. The talented 25-year-old grew into one of music’s most critically acclaimed artists with his debut studio album channel ORANGE last year, and coupled with his bold open letter addressing his sexuality, he’s one of the most dynamic and adventurous musicians today. The fit was only natural—just look at the track’s name.

Beyoncé
Myspace // Official // Twitter

Contribution: Vocals, “BBC,” “Part II (On the Run)”

She’s not just Jay-Z’s little wife, and Hov ain’t about to leave his queen out of an album named after the Magna Carta. Bey has been working with Jay-Z since The Blueprint 2, memorably duetting with her future husband on “‘03 Bonnie and Clyde,” among other tracks including “Crazy in Love,” Beyoncé’s lead single off her 2003 debut solo album Dangerously in Love. But really, is there a more obvious inclusion on this record?

Nas
Myspace // Official // Twitter

Contribution: Vocals and Writing, “BBC”

Jay’s long since buried the hatchet with the man who once came up with the one-two punch of “Gay-Z” and “Cock-A-Fella Records” on “Ether,” inviting Nas on stage at his 2005 “I Declare War” concert for a duet/mash-up of “Dead Presidents” and its source material, “The World Is Yours.” About a decade earlier, Hov was hoping to score a feature from Nas and his Firm co-hort AZ for “Bring It On” off his 1996 debut Reasonable Doubt, though according to Dame Dash, the two kept ditching the sessions. Ill will also allegedly grew on Nas’ side over payment for “Dead Presidents”’ sampling of “The World Is Yours” refrain, “I’m out for dead presidents to represent me.” A handful of barbs at Jay-Z from Mobb Depp’s Prodigy, some accusatory freestyles, Summer Jam slams (Nas even attempted a faux lynching of Jay-Z with a dummy but got shut down) and a conclusive, unassailable Hot 97 listeners poll that declared Nas’ “Ether” the supreme diss track over Jay’s “Supa Ugly” freestyle by a margin of 58 to 42 percent and we’ve got ourselves one of the most storied hip-hop feuds of all time. The chatter died down in the early aughts, though, and in 2006, Nas inked a deal with Def Jam while Jay-Z was still president.

Rick Ross
Myspace // Official // Twitter

Contribution: Vocals and Writing, “FuckWithMeYouKnowIGotIt”

Jay-Z has rolled with the Maybach Music boss since adding a verse to an official remix of Ross’ breakthrough 2006 hit “Hustlin’,” and Hov soon guested on the Trilla cut “Maybach Music.” The Teflon Don also shared the crown on the God Forgives, I Don’t cut “3 Kings” with Jigga and Dr. Dre last year, and the respect is clearly mutual.

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